Today is the National Day of France. Commonly known as Bastille Day in English-speaking countries, the day is known simply as le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July) in French.

Bastille Day commemorates both the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 and the Fête de la Féderation on the same date one year on.

The Bastille was a medieval fortress and prison, located in what is now the 11th arrondissement of Paris. At the time of the attack it held only seven prisoners but it could hold up to fifty and had previously housed Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade. When citizens of Paris attacked the Bastille on 14 July, they were not just seeking to attack a building but the very monarchy that it symbolised, and its fall served as the flashpoint for the French Revolution.

The Fête de la Féderation was held a year later to celebrate peace and the newly-formed national government, although the French Revolution was far from over!

The modern-day celebration can be traced back to 1878 when a feast was organised to celebrate the French Republic and the event can be seen in Claude Monet’s painting Rue Montorgueil. The Bastille Day Military Parade has been held in Paris on the morning of 14 July almost every year since 1880 and is the oldest regular military parade in the world. The current route runs down the Champs Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. In the evening you can attend a firemen’s ball and be treated to a night sky full of fireworks as people celebrate into the night.

Bastille Day is a national holiday in France (unlike in the UK these are held the day they fall on rather than a Monday) so this year many workers will faire le pont and take the Friday off work as well to make a “bridge” over to the weekend.

Sadly, we don’t get a day off here but that doesn’t mean you can’t join in the celebrations anyway! If you can’t make it over the channel to join the party, you can still get a taste of French culture in jolly old England (or Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland to that matter)! If you’d like to join in on the fun, check for local events like these below:

Wordfish would like to wish all our French friends a very happy 14 juillet!